Projects

Much of my career has been project-based. Here is a sampling of collaborative work over the years.

Rivers Mural Family

Family section of the mural by Angela Rivers and a team of youth, “A Pictorial History of African Americans in Champaign County,”1978; no longer extant.

 

Revisiting Murals, Animating Neighborhoods

Eunice Rivers MapWith the Chicago-based artist Angela Rivers, and University of Illinois faculty, staff and students–Ryan Griffis (Art and Design), Noah Lenstra (Graduate School of Library and Information Science), Ken Salo (Urban Planning), and Sam Smith (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts)–I helped write and produce a booklet on the mural in Champaign at Fifth and Park Streets that Angela Rivers designed and painted (with help from local youth) in 1978. The booklet, Revisiting Murals, Animating Neighborhoods, was funded by the Frances P. Rohlen Fund of the UI College of Fine and Applied Arts. Another key partner was eBlackCU.net, a project organized by Noah Lenstra and Abdul Alkalimat. The booklet is available from me for free, while supplies last. The mural, now destroyed, was created to honor Ms. Rivers’ family and others who moved north during the Great Migration.

Ms. Rivers conducted memory mapping workshops and led walking tours about local history during her several visits to Champaign in 2009-10. This detailed map of north Champaign was drawn by Angela Rivers’ mother, Mrs. Eunice Nelson Rivers, during one of the workshops in 2009.

In the fall of 2012, Angela and I are co-teaching a class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Insitute (OLLI) called “Champaign-Chicago: Celebrating an African-American Arts Corridor.” This is a continuation of the interview that we published in the summer of 2012 in AREA Magazine.

 

Respect Native Hosts

Respect native WEA hosts signDuring the spring and summer of 2009, I was part of a group of local artists and activists that responded to the vandalism of “Beyond the Chief,” an installation of twelve signs by Edgar Heap of Birds, on the campus of the University of Illinois. In collaboration with Heap of Birds and the director of American Indian Studies, Robert Warrior, a group of us produced 100 yard signs in solidarity with the commissioned work of Heap of Birds, about which I blogged quite a bit. Distributing the RESPECT NATIVE HOSTS signs was eye-opening for me: I think many people who have been enormously ashamed and frustrated with the festering legacy of chief Illiniwek felt very keen to get a yard sign that would make some kind of positive statement. The sign was designed by Ryan Griffis, with input from Brett Bloom, Bonnie Fortune and Sarah Ross. Bonnie Fortune wrote the press release, and I did a couple of media interviews and helped with distribution. Ten days after the initial announcement about the signs, they were all in people’s yards!

 

Potawatomi signThere were a number of acts of vandalism against the signs by Edgar Heap of Birds, one of which is shown here. The red cloth was tied around the pole in solidarity with the artist. Many other signs were bent, and one was stolen. The signs have now been removed and are in storage.

 

Life on the PrairieTwo other projects that continue to echo are:

  • with Amira Davis, supporting her efforts with the Afrikan American Cultural Arts Program
  • a collaboration called Hands On, Plugged In: Life on the Prairie, that involved middle school teachers and faculty and staff at the University of Illinois.

 

Garrett House articleAnother project that I did with Jan Kalmar, an attempt to save the 1898 Garrett House, ended badly. The Garrett House was torn down in 2003.